Same-sex divorce denied for Maryland same-sex couple

"We were told that because of the unnatural circumstances of our divorce, we would get a ruling by mail. So that, for me, the use of the word 'unnatural' and the fact that nobody else had gotten that statement, everybody else got a ruling, it made me nervous that maybe this wasn't going to be as smooth as I had thought," recounts one woman seeking to end her same-sex marriage.

The female couple wed in another state in 2008, where same-sex marriages are lawful. After moving to Maryland, they decided to file for divorce, based upon a mutual agreement. The uncontested divorce was later denied by a judge because our state does not yet legally recognize same-sex marriage.

A same-sex marriage bill was passed last month, but it won't take effect until 2013. But this couple has been trying to get divorced for a year and a half. Their appeal is now scheduled to be heard in April by the highest court in the state. The ruling made on this case in the Court of Appeals may set a precedent in Maryland, as the court is will consider if denying a divorce to a couple lawfully married in another state is discriminatory in our state, which has yet to recognize such unions.

While it remains to be seen what the result of the appeal will be, the case underscores the difficulty that some same-sex couples encounter when it comes to divorce. To date, Maryland courts have closed their doors to same-sex couples seeking to end their marriage. While the issue may become moot if the new legislation authorizing same-sex unions survives a call by some for a statewide referendum, those couples affected by the current state of the law continue to struggle to achieve what is available to heterosexual couples.

Source: NBC 4 Washington, "Same-Sex Couple Fights for Right to Divorce in Maryland," Chris Gordon, Mar. 20, 2012